2019 IW Winners

Young Entrepreneur of the Year - Thunder Bay

Ashlyn Ransome

Ashlyn Ransome

You could say Ashlyn Ransome always had a taste for her field of work.

The owner of Thunder Bay’s The Pasta Shoppe knew early she wanted to own a business, and she built it on the foods she was raised on. Ransome grew up enjoying regular Sunday dinners at her Nonno and Nonna’s with her parents and three siblings.

“It was a lot of homemade Italian food with a twist, because my grandparents were from Italy but they adapted to our Canadian ways,” said Ransome.

“My Nonna created her own family recipes that we now know and love, like her meatballs – they didn’t taste the same if she didn’t make them.”

These dinners gave Ransome an appreciation for food that never faded: fresh pasta with red sauce and handmade gnocchi were a constant source of comfort and joy. It took her a while to realize it could be a source of income, too, though.

Right out of high school, Ransome headed south to study fashion in southern Ontario. It tested her boundaries but wasn’t quite right. She was back home in Thunder Bay before too long.

“It definitely changes your perspective when you leave your hometown,” said Ransome. “At first it was exciting because everything was so new and fresh, but there’s nothing like home.”

At that point, Ransome decided she’d like to learn more about the small business community, and enrolled in business marketing at the local college.

“My mindset throughout school wasn’t always to open up my own business; it changed and evolved in the three years that I was there,” said Ransome.

“If you told me when I graduated I would open up a food business, I would’ve thought you were crazy, because I had no food experience.”

She had to craft a business plan to graduate, though, and on a whim she came up with The Pasta Shoppe.

She spent some time as a young professional after graduating, before deciding to put the plan in action, figuring, “If not now, then when?”

She and her mother made the leap in July 2015, renting the basement of an old school to hand-crank two different types of pasta to serve with a handful of sauces.

“We just wanted to be a business so badly that we took that risk,” laughed Ransome.

A year later they got a grant to invest in an industrial pasta machine. Shortly after, they moved to a street-level space and purchased The Superior Olive Oil Company as a second business.

For Ransome, the businesses have been a way for her to share: not just food, but knowledge and even emotion.

“The word that describes our approach well is nostalgia,” said Ransome. “When you have fresh pasta for dinner it’s not a common thing; it’s always a special occasion. We felt it should be more accessible to the average person.”

She’s currently working on developing that experience even further, between her other projects, which involve volunteering, a new interest in urban beekeeping, plant-based recipes, fermenting, and camping.

“I have always been a busy bee and always had my hand in more things than one,” said Ransome. “I love sharing the passion I have, whether it’s from a business perspective or being a friend who’s up for something new and fun.”